I’m not ashamed, I love to nerd out about my musical equipment. Here are some things I’m particularly excited about.
This is my #1, the first legitimately nice instrument I’ve owned. The serial number puts it around 1987, making it only a year younger than me. It comes with active electronics, but I had it modded to be fully passive. I mostly set it to single-coil mode and leave the tone knobs alone, doing my onstage tone adjustments with just the pickup switch. Unlike some other great-sounding basses I tried, it has no neck dive and balances perfectly on the body. I had it set up for my low tuning, B-E-A-D, the rationale for which is discussed in this post. The bent tuning peg is from an unfortunate spill it took in New Orleans. Fortunately the damage was strictly cosmetic and the tuner itself is intact. Because it’s built like a fucking tank. Check out how the wood grain follows the shape of the body. Someone put some serious love into this.
Headless basses are pretty divisive. Some people think they’re extremely cool, some don’t want to be seen onstage next to one. I love them. I bought this little guy back in high school. It’s got a very full sound for something so small, and it’s very comfortable to play. Stays in tune forever. I made two modifications: installing a strap hook to improve the playing position (these basses tend to hang pretty far to the left, making half position a little uncomfortable), and carving a chunk out of the body as a thumbrest. Currently residing at Gravesend Studio, where a motley assortment of bands see it and laugh and then end up using it.
I already had my other headless when I bought this one, but I couldn’t resist the unmistakably ’80s design. Isn’t it cool? It makes me feel like I’m in The Revolution or something. Since this picture was taken, I have had it modified to include a strap hook. I use this for the occasional freelance gig, and the rest of the time it lives at Gravesend Recordings. I’ve never actually heard of another B2 (only B2A and B2B), so it must be pretty old. The guy I bought it from gave it to me in a modified rifle case, which is a surefire way to strike fear into everyone else on the train.
Sort of like a Musicman, but cheaper and with this awesome huge bridge plate. Serial number puts it very close to the beginning of this model’s run, and I’ve never seen this finish with the black binding anywhere else. I bought this on eBay from someone who had clearly treated it just awfully: only two rusty strings, worn frets, and a totally useless input jack, in a hard case reeking of mothballs and cat urine. I got it fixed up and put a nice custom pickup in it from Bassculture, the only company I’m aware of that makes a pickup for this particular bass. You ever heard of a little band called Casiorossi? Probably not, unless we’re friends, but this is what I used on all their recordings. Sounds great with a pick. I put one of those nerdy pick holders on there.
My first bass ever, purchased back in 2000 with the help of my dad and this guy. Also in B-E-A-D tuning, and used in Ava Luna until I got my G&L. Ibanez is one of my favorite brands, the necks are extremely comfortable and they get a great sound for the price. I swapped out the original pickups for better DiMarzios. I don’t use this so much anymore, but hold onto it for sentimental reasons
These are the best. They have a digital preamp but an analog power amp, so they sound nice and warm while weighing about eight pounds and fitting into a small rack case. Sound engineers love them because you can take a line out from the back, with its own volume control. The low-pass filter and variable peak filter are nice features that I use sometimes, but it’s mostly about the sound, which I would describe as “meaty”.
I bought this back in 2009 when I started playing with Ava Luna. We had a lot of house shows with bad PAs and no monitors, and I realized my old 1×12 that I used in high school jazz band wasn’t going to cut it. It only weighs 44 lbs, but puts out 500 watts of power and has a tweeter with its own volume knob. Definitely the best combination of quality, portability, and value I’ve seen. I find a 2×10 to be the ideal size. I can move it comfortably, it fits easily into the van, and it’s more than loud enough for the variety of occasionally bizarre musical situations I’ve found myself in.
I used to consider preamps an unnecessary extravagance, but the Sansamp is a lifesaver. It just makes you sound better, like an old SVT that I can’t afford and don’t want to carry. I tend to do very little EQ on my amp and most of it on this box. It’s particularly useful if you play a lot of shows where you have to use unfamiliar gear, because you can get a consistent sound out of whatever they give you. Just dial in your preferred settings on the Sansamp, and even the worst amp sounds like you. Also has a direct out, which comes in handy. Some venues will patch you into the board before your amp instead of after, so they’re getting your direct sound and you have less control over what comes out of the PA. If you have them take a line out of the Sansamp, that ensures that your sound will be processed closer to the way you want it.
When Ava Luna recorded Ice Level, we did all the tracking in one day. I didn’t own any sort of distortion or fuzz, and there were a few songs that required it, so I stopped into Main Drag on my way to the studio looking for a Big Muff. They were out, and I didn’t have time to go to another store, so I had to look at the other options. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because this box is a huge improvement. The filter-based EQ lets you dial in your preferred position in the mix, from high and clanky to low and thumpy. It has separate knobs for your clean and distorted sound, which is a must for any fuzz or distortion as far as I’m concerned. And there’s a switch to boost the signal and invert the phase, which gives you a whole additional range of tones to play with. For a very small fee the manufacturer will mod this pedal to include a gate (the switch on the left). The gate function maxes out the Fuzz knob when you engage it, so depending on your settings you can use it as a second “level” of fuzz that’s easy to switch to in a performance.